Officer and others listen
Beginning with an icebreaker where the kids and others expressed their dreams, the kids split into peer groups to share why they need parks and play spaces and what problems they face in accesing them. The children initially listed their favourite sports and mentioned the specific attractions at the venue. “I love the toy train and want to board it now” was the dominant refrain from Harshith, Nakul and friends. Shreya added, “I like going to the park with my mummy and brother.” When we asked them if they faced any difficulty moving and playing in parks, Jaffar, Santhosh, Arafa and their classmates’ instantaneous response was “the stones and rough grass!”
“Older children and particularly boys often don’t let us play by ourselves or join them”, said a group of little girls with big smiles from low income families in Tilak Nagar. They were among those who campaigned unsuccessfully to save a BBMP park, their primary play area, from being destroyed.
The group of adults agreed that disability does not have to be a limitation and it is for society to ensure that. As they discussed parks and how to make them more accommodative, broader issues like not-so-disabled-friendly transportation and lack of sufficient, safe “lung” spaces also came into picture.
After creating snakes, trees, ponds, clouds, et al with clay and colour, some of the kids went around to understand what the other teams had done. Through simple yet powerful drawings, skits, poems and songs that they had composed earlier in the day the kids depicted to everyone present how parks and public play spaces delight and challenge them and suggested changes that they wanted. While the differently abled children highighted issues like uneven, rocky paths, high steps/platforms and steep or no ramps, others depicted discrimination based on age, gender and economic background.
Seeing Mr. A Narayanaswamy, Joint Director (Horticulture), BBMP, patiently listen to the presentations without justifying or promising much momentarily, I am hopeful that the body will try to implement its intentions. Of course, as Ms. Krishnamoorthy of Kilikili reiterated, we must collectively ensure that the government receives and considers inputs from the participants and all others concerned.
Words can merely state how elated and enriched I feel after the four hours that I spent interacting with and observing all these special children that everyone must remember always.
Maragathavalli Inbamuthiah also contributed to this piece.